Fritz Lang’s Fury sympathizes with a persecuted innocent
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Fritz Lang made Fury (starring Spencer Tracy as a guileless working man nearly lynched by an angry mob) shortly after fleeing Nazi Germany for Hollywood, and he brought his feelings about his country’s encroaching fascism along with him. It’s a dark film, visually and morally, and an angry one as well. Tracy, who begins the film as a genial yokel, emerges from his near-death experience as a bitter man consumed by vengeance. When the people of his small town burned down the jail where he was held after being falsely accused of a young girl’s kidnapping, they thought he’d perished in the flames, but they were only half-right. Only the good parts of him, Tracy says, “burned to death with me that night.”
Overlapping heavily with Lang’s titanic masterwork M—Lang wanted Tracy’s character, like Peter Lorre’s child murderer, to be guilty, but the studio nixed the idea—Fury takes a strange and spiteful turn in its latter half, as Tracy plays dead and watches his would-be assassins stand trial for his murder. Pessimistic as it is about human nature, M puts its faith in the law, the only bulwark against the tyranny of the mob. But in Fury, there is no protection, no higher order to assert itself: The townspeople (of course) escape death, but they, like Tracy, are scarred for good, any notion of their moral fitness obliterated. The movie overtly suggests they’ll learn from their mistakes, but Lang shows little faith. Only blood can answer blood.
Availability: On DVD through Warner Video, and available for digital rental and purchase.